Chicken housing is a crucial element to your success when raising your own birds at home. The chicken coop or hen house must do several jobs. It must protect your flock from the elements, protect them from predators, and give them an area in which they can feel safe and secure.
When it comes to chicken housing, there are many things to consider, but one of the most important is size. Overcrowding can lead to a variety of diseases as well as unruly birds. Disease within a chicken coop can run rampant in no time, and many owners have lost their entire flocks simply because they tried to put too many animals into a small space.
Chicken housing can be bought or it can be built by the homeowner. In either case, choose a coop or hen house that allows for at least three feet of space per bird.
Another issue to consider is elevation. Whenever possible, try to have a coop that is off the ground. This elevation is important for two reasons: first, it helps to prevent some types of predators from getting into the coop; and, second, it makes cleaning the floor a lot easier!
A well-build chicken coop will also provide plenty of ventilation for the birds. Ventilation is very important for those who live in hot climates. Fresh air can help keep the coop smelling its best as well as provide comfort to the animals.
A word of caution on ventilation: While providing fresh air is important, it is also important to make sure that you do not have easy access into the coop for predators. Vent holes should be covered with wire mesh.
You might think that a simple chicken coop does not need to be insulated, but you might want to rethink that. In some places, winter can be brutal and by adding insulation to the coop or hen house, you can help protect your flock from the cold, which can be deadly. If you insulate the coop, make sure you put up a barrier between the insulation and the birds. Some of them might want to eat it, which is not a good idea at all. For this reason, most old-timers will use some form of Styrofoam instead of fiber-based insulation.
For those planning to raise laying hens, you will need to provide nests for the hens. For the most part, a laying nest that is about 12 x 15 and 13 or 14 inches deep will work just fine.
At first keep the nests on the floor. This allows the hens to adapt to them. After a week or two, you can lift them up to the side of the hen house, but no more than a foot or foot-and-a-half.
Another issue to consider is the chicken roost. This is just a wooden dowel or other such material that the birds use to sit on and to sleep on. You should not place one roost directly over another as this can lead to birds becoming filthy with waste from those above.
Try to allow two or three feet of roost per bird. You may have to install more than one roost to accommodate all of your birds.
Most chicken coop plans that you buy will have information on watering and feeding stations. It is important that all of your birds have access to both food and water. Normally, this means setting up more than one station, but that truly depends on how many birds you have. If you notice your birds fighting over food or water, then it is time to add more.
While the above may sound a bit complicated, it is not. You can find a wealth of information on chicken housing online these days, and you can also purchase your chicken coop plans and other supplies online as well.